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OSU’s new athletic coaching minor program hopes to train a new type of coach

Filed by KOSU News in Feature.
September 27, 2013

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The news came out earlier this year: Oklahoma State University would offer a minor in athletic coaching. An overwhelming response from athletic directors across the state pushed the idea forward, and students are in the classes now, learning about all aspects of coaching: injury prevention, the psychology of an athlete, and ethical issues.

“A simple thing…like a drive that you make hundreds of thousands of times in practice.”

Tim Baghurst is walking his students through an example in a recent class. It’s a famous – or infamous one.

“It was here that the tragic comedy began. Most balls that hit grandstands stay there. The result from the ricochet was unfortunate to say the least.”

That’s Jean Van de Velde’s collapse at the British Open. But these students aren’t running through caddie school. This is just a slice of the psychology element as part of the new coaching minor at OSU.

“If you don’t have any kind of coaching background, you’ve got nothing to stand on. But if you understand the principles of physiology, the principles of strength and conditioning, the principles of nutrition, sports psychology, you can apply a lot of those to a sport even if you’ve never played it because you understand the ground work that goes in behind that.”

Baghurst is an Assistant Professor of Health and Human Performance. He came to Stillwater from Arkansas, where coaches are required to go through extensive certification classes before they can get on the field. He said this program is modeled after the one there, with the hopes it will inspire students to dig deeper.

“It’s understanding when you should give someone a ride and maybe when you shouldn’t. There’s rights and wrongs, there’s dos and don’ts and its all based on science.”

“Giving kids rides home, a prime example. Back in the day, we never thought anything about it. Nowaways, you just can’t put yourself in that situation. There’s just too many things that could be said and it comes to a he said, she said.”

Ed Sheakley is in charge of the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Athletic Association, often known as OSSAA. They supervise high school sports, and surveyed their members as Tim Baghurst and others at OSU considered a coaching minor.

“Getting these young teachers out of college and coaches, some of them are star struck, this is their first teaching or coaching position and they’ve got a lot of responsibilites. If they come to me with some of this knowledge, and that they’ve already received a coaching minor, then that just makes my job easier.”


At Edmond North football practice, coaches alternate between yelling, and joking around. Athletic Director at the school, Tom Snider, says there’s a wide variety of skills required.

“We spend a lot of time giving coaches information when they become a coach. So I think if they can get that ahead of time, that would be a good thing.”

Snider says the school is frequently short of coaches, and teachers often jump in. But without any formal training, they’re playing catch up the whole season. It’s not just the coaching they have to adjust to, it’s the business side too – they’ve got to make sure kids have physicals, have to schedule practices, and keep track of equipment. Students coming out of OSU’s program won’t need as much training as someone off the street.

“It makes me appreciate my coaches a lot more because they were really calm about the situations they were put in. And it kind of makes me think the same way of the situations that I might possibly be put in.”

Stephanie Hays is one of those students. She’s a senior from Arlington, Texas, majoring in physical education. She calls the classes eye-opening.

“I’ve learned a lot about like, I was an athlete in high school, and I’ve learned kinda the other side of things that my coaches have to deal with on a day to day basis.”

And to those who think this sounds like a minor just to pad the resume, get some credits and move on, well Tim Baghurst has a message for them.

“Coaching is a science. In order to be successful, it’s not an accident, or luck, or you just happened to have a good coach when you were young. This is about understanding the processes of the mind, understanding how the body works and understanding how you should weight train and how you shouldn’t.”

Professor Baghurst literally wrote the book on all of this too…he pulled out one when I met him in his office in the Colvin Recreation Center on OSU’s campus. There are other schools that offer advanced degrees in athletic coaching, but Brad Nixon, another senior from Texas, says this is different.

“It definitely gets you in that mindset instead of just well my past coach did this, so that’s what I’m going to do, so now you have different variables of being a coach instead of just one mindset.”

So I asked Ed Sheakley a simple question.

Two candidates who look the same, and one of them have a coaching science minor. More likely to hire that candidate?

“If he has a coaching certification, that’s a plus on his part.”

That’s why OSU and Professor Baghurst created the program – they were filling a demand. About 20 students are a part of the minor so far, and Professor Baghurst hopes it only continues to grow.

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